I was in two minds about whether I wanted to visit Bundi. We’d been in the big cities of Delhi and Agra, as well as the national parks of Keoladeo and Ranthambore. The cities were extremely busy and the gateway towns for the parks were very quiet.
We were desperate for something in-between, that had stuff going on, but was also somewhere that you could chill. Not having to get rickshaws was a bonus as Bundi is very walkable. That sold it to us, so we got the train from Sawai Madhopur to Kota which took about an hour. We then took a rickshaw from the train station to the bus stand and hopped on a bus to Bundi which took about half an hour.
1. It’s shabby but definitely chic
The area around the palace has everything you need as a traveller, booking agents, tourist attractions, restaurants and laundry service. Most restaurants have a roof terrace so you can look at the shabby beauty of Bundi. It’s in a valley so there’s lots of greenery. It has a faded grandeur which is quite intriguing and the palace looks beautiful at sunset as you can see from this picture.
2. You can become an artist
Bundi is popular with wannabe artists and artisans as it offers courses in painting and jewellery making. Not only can you admire the painted havelis, but you can learn to paint in that style. Depending on your level of artistic skill you could really impress with your artwork.
3. There are hidden historic monuments
Bundi is famous for its stepwells and although some are full of rubbish, others, like Rani Ji Ki Baori are preserved. RJKB is actually rated as one of India’s most spectacular stepwells, according to Culture Trip. It even has its own snapping turtles that live in its water and in the lake at the palace so look out for them. You never know when you might come across a stepwell, so that’s part of the fun.
4. You may have tourist attractions to yourself
We walked to the Sukh Mahal which is also known as the Kipling Palace as Rudyard Kipling wrote part of Kim here. The Bundi tourist board has dined out on that ever since. As you can see, it was very crumbly but with nice views and it was very peaceful. We even had our own guard to show us around the different rooms. A composite ticket gets you into the 84-pillared cenotaph, the Sukh Mahal and the RJKB stepwell. It can be used over two days so you have time to see them all.
5. You are surrounded by nature
This is the lake by the Sukh Mahal, and while it may look like only pigeons, there were scores of waterbirds, egrets, herons, coursers, jacanas and swallows. You can also see bee-eaters, kingfishers and green pigeons in the trees around the city. There are, of course, monkeys, and you can watch langurs and macaques on the rooftops. Turtles can be seen sunbathing in the lake if you check on any small islands.
6. Inside the palace are incredible paintings
I had never seen this style of painting before, different from the havelis outside. I loved the blue and turquoise shades which almost made paying the foreigner fee worthwhile! Another bonus is that the palace is much quieter than the hectic Agra Fort or the Taj Mahal. You’re also unlikely to be asked for a selfie here so you can concentrate on sightseeing.
7. Rooftop life is the good life
Bundi has a decent amount of small but quality cafes and restaurants, all with views across the city. It’s the perfect way to enjoy life in India without the stress of being on the hectic streets. The food here was varied, and you could get good pizza, falafel, Indian, organic food and most importantly…beer! It’s never on the menu so you have to ask as most places don’t actually have a license to sell it.
Obviously, Bundi isn’t perfect but there is a lot less hassle and traffic than in other Rajasthan cities. There are a nice amount of tourists so that you can meet people but you’re not treated as unusual and you can still arrange things with ease. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bundi does increase in popularity as people discover this low-key gem, so now is the time to visit.